View Full Version : Bird Brain

04-26-2006, 05:46 PM
My husband works on a railroad and was telling me about the birds he's been seeing. Some of the track isn't used a lot and along those tracks killdees will nest.

When the men or trains get on those sections of track the adult killdee will pretend it has a broken wing and take off dragging it. . . luring danger from the babies.

Calling someone a bird brain doesn't quite have the same meaning anymore!

04-26-2006, 08:51 PM
Whiporwills do that too. I guess birds that nest on or near the ground had to come with some way to protect the young.


Silver King
04-27-2006, 01:24 AM
I watched a show once, I believe on Animal Planet, where folks were feeding bread to a group of ducks. A snowy egret scooped up a few crumbs in its beak, flew to the opposite side of the pond, and deposited the bread in a few inches of water. The bait soon attracted minnows, and the egret began feeding on those. The bird repeated this behavior several times. I've often wondered where that egret learned how to chum for its meal.

Another time, my wife and I were having drinks with another couple on their dock. It was just getting dark when a rat appeared nearby. I can tell you without blushing I was the first one up on the table. Before I had time to shriek too loudly, I heard the beating of wings and a sudden whoosh as a great blue heron dove in, impaled the rat in its beak and flew off. I'm not sure if this constitutes intelligent behavior, but that heron could've been awarded a medal of valor in my book.

04-28-2006, 09:53 PM
Hi, Silver King! Glad you dropped by!

I saw that clip with the bird dropping bread in the water. Talk about impressive! That was excellent planning/implementation. Some folks should be so smart. ;)

Re: the rat/heron. I'd have dropped dead, right then and there. lol

Great thread starter, Fern! Bird brains indeed. :ROFL:

04-29-2006, 05:31 AM
We have a number of black-capped chickadees using the bird feeders in our yard. They are a treat to observe. It's as if they know it's polite to wait their turn at the feeder by sitting on a branch near it. Then they swoop in, spot what they want, pick it up, and fly off to a branch to enjoy what they selected.

04-29-2006, 08:35 AM
I'm with awatkins on the rat thing. It would have been all over for me right then I'm afraid. Rats give me the creeps, not to mention a big ol' bird swooping down right before your eyes. :D

The chickadees sound enjoyable to sit and watch. Until the last few years, I didn't realize birds could be so entertaining. We have a couple of woodpeckers that I'm sure are on this earth simply to annoy me. Hammer, hammer, hammer until you can't think straight. I've also noticed lots of what I call cowbirds around lately. They sit on and around the neighbors cows and hang around our horses although I've not seen them land on the horses like they do cows. Probably have a runaway if they did. Anyway, its kind of icky thinking about them picking tics and bugs off the animals, but I guess everything has a purpose.

04-29-2006, 09:25 PM
I'm with awatkins on the rat thing. It would have been all over for me right then I'm afraid. Rats give me the creeps, not to mention a big ol' bird swooping down right before your eyes. :D

Don't forget the impaling part. :eek:

Chickadees do seem polite, don't they? They even look polite, with their formal attire. We're having an abundance of lemon-yellow American goldfinches at our feeders. They look so pretty in contrast to the vibrant red of the cardinals and the bold blue of the indigo buntings. There's a new guy in the bunch lately, too, a blue grossbeak that shyly picks around on the ground. Gorgeous bird.

Silver King
04-29-2006, 10:34 PM
The impaling part was impressive. The beak went straight through and left a wet smear on the dock. I love blue herons and see them often, though I didn't realize they were partial to rats until that evening.

If you can stand another heron anecdote...

I was wade fishing once with a friend when we came upon a heron in distress. Her left wing was tangled in fishing line. My friend went to help her, approaching on his knees. As he reached for the beak to subdue her, she lunged and pecked him in the face, just under his eye. His head snapped back as if he'd been struck by a fist. He fell backwards, blood streaming down his cheek. He was left with a shiner and, to this day, a knot of scar tissue that's still visible near his eye.

(We did manage to free the heron. I used my shirt to cover the bird's head and held her while my friend cut away the fishing line.)

Blue herons have earned an interesting nickname, and rightly so: Big Cranky.

04-29-2006, 10:54 PM
Good grief!! I'm glad she missed his eye. Those birds are awfully big and powerful; good for you two that you were able to go ahead and free her, though I bet your friend didn't feel much like doing anything but getting himself patched up!

I didn't know they liked rats--fish, yes; rats, um, no. *shudder*

(Vlad the heron indeed! :ROFL: )

04-29-2006, 11:42 PM
That evokes way too many stories for me.

First off, I was at a small pond, walking around it. Right among some downed limbs and a lot of brush hanging over the water there was this Great Blue Heron some eight feet from me. With his six foot wing span he couldn't fly or quickly negotiate the brush to get away. I whipped out my camera and caught a beautiful shot of him before he found himself out of what he thought was harms way. (I'll find it and post it as soon as I wade through all the files.)

Another one: while I was fishing a seagull landed to see if he could steal a piece of bait. Problem was that he had a double treble hook lure stuck in his beak. One side stuck to his neck, the other in one of his nostrils. He couldn't eat no matter what. A friend got a pair of work gloves from his van and sat behind him. I spent about a half hour sweet talking him to get him closer and distracted--using killeys to draw him near. My friend grabbed him from behind and we used nose pliers to pull out the lure. Once freed, he decided to stay and feed on the killies. He was one hungry dude.

Last story, promise: My bro-in-law and I drove into Gateway National Park, believe it or not, situated on some of the shores in New York City. It was at Breezy Point, Queens, and a ranger had to check us out for fishing poles, four wheel drive vehicle, and an entrenching tool in case we got stuck on the beaches. He cautioned us to watch out for the plovers, a somewhat endangered bird species that were spawning. It was about 10 PM. We were getting close to the jetty when our headlights caught some several hundred plovers on the beach--every parent running away and feigning a broken wing.

04-30-2006, 02:32 AM
That plover story is hilarious! I can just picture them all running away, dragging their 'broken' wings.

I'm looking forward to seeing that picture, Rich. Hope you can find it.

04-30-2006, 03:37 AM
We discovered a nest in our shed a few weeks ago that was attached to the side of the wall on a cross piece. Last weekend, there were five eggs in it. Today, we have one or more hatchlings! When I realized from the upstretched head and open mouth of one that there were young in it, I backed out of the shed and closed the door. There's a chunk missing out of it and there's an opening beneath the roof, so the parents have been getting in and out already with the door shut. :)

04-30-2006, 02:23 PM

Sorry, couldn't get him smaller. Don't know how. l

05-01-2006, 03:51 AM
My wife owns the only bait/tackle store for twenty miles in any direction and we sell live bait year around. This means when some of the shiners, goldfish, tuffies, crawdads, and crickets die each day we pack them into ziplock bags for sale as dead bait. But we still have a lot which we discard.

Out in front of the bait shop are my weld sculptures and a mulberry tree. About five feet from them grows a very large wild rose bush, replete with numerous long menacing thorns. All of the various colored juncos, canaries, blue jays, etc. use that rose bush for hiding when threatened.

For quite some time lately we have enjoyed watching a red-tailed hawk showing obvious signs of intellect in catching the birds. As the other birds fly down to eat the dead fish and bird seed we often put out for them the hawk perches in a not-too-distant tree and watches. Once the hawk ascertains there are enough birds on the ground it dives down, scattering the birds into the rose bush where they apparently know the hawk cannot get them. It then sits on one of the weld sculptures while it observes where the birds went.

We repeatedly watch in amazement as the hawk then stalks on foot beneath the rose bush, reaching up to grab a branch in its beak and vigorously shake the branch. It will then move to another branch and repeat the action, sometimes pausing as if to gauge the effect. This obviously frightens the birds hiding in the rose bush because they come fluttering from the thorny recesses to fly over and alight on the mulberry tree.

The hawk always has its pick of which particular birds it chooses to eat on that occasion, since the frightened birds have lost their protection but aren't smart enough to fly away.

05-02-2006, 04:13 AM
The bird in the shed is a wren. We spotted two of the babies today when we got the mower out of the shed.

05-02-2006, 12:20 PM
Where I live we have Carolina wrens (neat little birds); they can pick the oddest nesting places. Every year at my mother's house they nest in one of her hanging flower basket on the porch. I've probably held more Carolina wrens than any other bird just trying to save them or get them out of trouble.

05-08-2006, 04:10 AM
I needed a board from the shed today. Got a quick look at the birds. They've got feathers now, so it won't be long before they leave the nest. ;)

05-08-2006, 07:21 PM
Years ago, my mom hung up a pair of cute wooden shoes on her front porch. Wrens nest in one of them every year. :)

05-08-2006, 07:23 PM
Hey, Rich, why don't you post that picture on your blog? Then let us know when it's up and we'll go look at it there. I want to see. :)

05-08-2006, 07:43 PM
I'll try.

05-08-2006, 08:13 PM
Hey, it worked. When I try to put anything on my regular site I go through so much trial and error maneuvers that I give up trying. On the blog it's easy. I'm thinking of dropping my regular site, which costs about 300 bucks a year, and switch everything to my blog.

05-10-2006, 01:49 AM
:D It's nice to have a spot to chat about birds w/o people groaning, "here she goes again......"

We have two very distinct sparrows that we are trying to identify. If you pick up a bird book, there's about a thousand varieties. We think one is a chipping sparrow and the other might be a song sparrow. The (possible) song sparrow and mate have built a nest in our newly planted pine tree off the deck.

Any sparrow freaks here?

BTW, is there a market for writing about wild birds from an interested layperson's perspective? We aren't hardcore birders and know zilch about exotics. (Except we are babysitting a cockatiel later this month who's a bit of a princess.)

05-10-2006, 03:03 AM
Nancy, did you check out the bird markets listed at the top of this particular forum. . .as a sticky? I'm not sure what all is there, but I know there are quite a few.

05-12-2006, 10:49 PM
Nancy, I think Birds and Blooms publishes material like that. Check the sticky--they're listed there. :)

Speaking of bird brains...we recently moved our birdfeeders off the front porch and out to one of the gardens. There are four feeders there, and I also scatter seeds and cracked corn on the ground. But, just let one of the feeders run low on a favorite item (sunflower, thistle, whatever) and you better believe those little feathered beggars are on the porch, staring in the window, clinging to the screen and tapping at the glass, or even perching somewhere they can see in through the front door! I'm a bird slave, I tell ya. :ROFL:

05-12-2006, 11:01 PM
Ah, I will be setting up a fund drive for a huge bird cage. Don't worry, awatkins; it'll be big enough to fit you and any of your family members who wish to visit.

05-12-2006, 11:03 PM
Thanks, Rich! I knew I could count on you. :D

05-14-2006, 06:02 PM
Our baby birds in the shed have fledged and departed to lead their own lives.

In the meantime, we have a young cardinal that's fledged, yet follows its mother around. He waits and chirps constanttly for attention in our plum tree only a few feet away from a feeder while she goes back and forth bringing him seeds. We've had bluejay young do that before as well. So much for empty nest syndrome. ;)

05-14-2006, 09:31 PM
Thanks, Anne, for the suggestion about the publication.

We have a baby bluebird!! He's flying and his parents are very protective. Too fun!:banana: :e2bear:

05-15-2006, 07:17 PM
Congratulations on the fledglings, you guys! They are such fun to watch. :)

Our bluebirds are still feeding their babies--at first they were carrying little bits of bugs and stuff into the box. Now they're dragging in huge juicy, dangly worms, fat bugs, and even grasshoppers! I have no idea how many babies are in that box but the parents are hauling in enough food for a small army. lol

05-15-2006, 11:16 PM
I almost forgot! We went to the cemetery this weekend to visit my mom's grave and spotted a killdeer scurrying across the grounds...accompainied by two tiny fluffballs on spindly little legs!

That was the first time I've ever seen baby killdeer and they were too cute for words. Then, as we were driving away, we spotted two more! These were bigger than the first ones. They had darker markings and looked more like killdeer than the first; they just looked like itty bitty puffy things on teensy stilts. :)

05-16-2006, 04:58 PM
Ah, the killdeer! For about two years we had an abundance of killdeer. I think they came with the property and eventually left because they didn't like the new neighbors (us). They were so numerous that the environmental education class from the high school came to watch them as part of a national competition.

Killdeer are amazing primarily because they are ground-dwellers who nest in the most dangerous places yet manage to reproduce and multipy despite this quirk. We had a nest next to a fence post in the barnyard which was patrolled ineffectively by my overly-delicate cats. There was one behind the vertical portion (the "wall") of a jump in the riding ring. There was one under the picnic table. The parent birds expended an amazing amount of energy doing the "broken wing" dance to lure us away from their eggs and hatchlings--hilarious considering the horses were more attracted by the birds' antics than deflected by them. I can't count how many times I was riding in the ring, popping the horse over jumps, while the killdeer parents and little string of babies ran from spot to spot trying to stay out of my way. They only needed to find a new nesting ground, but that seemed out of the question. I guess I built the ring where they were used to living. They probably held Killdeer Anti-development Association meetings at night.

We still have them, but they're not as plentiful and they've moved out into the hay field and the stonerows. Much safer. Good compromise, if you ask me.

Did I tell you about the hand-raised pigeon who tried to be a killdeer? What a story that was!

It's almost flat-baby time in my barn. The swallows have built nests on all the light fixtures and radiant heaters. Soon the eggs will hatch and the non-viable (or slightly retarded) babies will be dumped unceremoniously into the horses' stalls to make room for the kick-*** ones. The barn brats have gotten used to the process, but only after much hysteria the first couple of years. Nature isn't always a kind mistress.

05-18-2006, 01:06 AM

At the risk of being too personal, I wish I could come over and sniff your horses!

I moved to the country with the idea that I'd get a couple, but it hasn't happened. I had my last horse fix when I volunteered at a race horse adoption program. The place is now a million miles away, but I'm thinking of going back for an afternoon.

The equine guys on your website look fabulous!!

05-18-2006, 01:14 AM
Nancy, my horses are always available for sniffing for the meager price of a five-pound bag of carrots or a the equivalent weight in watermelon. Zip will have a beer, thank you very much. Mocha latte for Pokey. Orange soda for Zip [*nudge* Wait! You don't get to order twice.] Leo wants an apple. The rest want Zip to get away from the fridge so they can see what else is available. :D

Thanks for the compliment. I think my guys are pretty cute. They think they're pretty cute too. Just ask them.

05-18-2006, 01:44 AM
Did I tell you about the hand-raised pigeon who tried to be a killdeer? What a story that was!

Do tell. Please. :D

05-18-2006, 05:05 PM
Well, since you're twisting my arm . . .:D I'll give you the short version of a very long bird tale.

If you live on a farm or have a reputation for keeping animals alive, people bring you stuff. In this case it was a series of baby pigeons that had fallen out of their nests in the tops of the silos at a friend's dairy farm. My daughter, Jess, named them all "Pidge"--Pidge, Pidge the Second, and so on. This is Pidge the Second's story.

Jess raised him in her bedroom, as she did all the crittters she mothered. She had a flight cage from her finch-breeding days that was just right for a pigeon. Pidge moved in when he was just a few days old. By the way, baby pigeons are so amazingly homely I thought he was a turkey buzzard when I went to pick him up.

Sooooo . . . this one being far smarter than the one who could only fly backwards, Pidge II grew fat and happy and soon we were teaching him to fly with an eye toward releasing him. All went swimmingly until he found out he was going to have to sleep outside. I'll skip that part. It wasn't pretty.

Eventually he got the hang of living on top of the chicken coop, but he didn't have a grip on his pigeon-ness. This being a new farm, we hadn't attracted any pigeons of our own yet. Not a single one. There was a parakeet and a slew of other birds, but no pigeons, so Pidge didn't have much in the way of role models. He'd tried being human, and we'd thrown him out, so that wasn't who he was. He tried being a chicken, but he couldn't quite manage the dust baths, and the coop was too crowded with fat land-dwellers. He flew alongside Jess's head while she jumped courses in the ring. He rode on the one-eyed Appy's shoulder for a while. He liked sitting on people's heads which led to even more stories I'll skip.

One day he got it in his head he was a barn swallow. He was about four times their size, so he looked pretty silly flying in their formation around the barn floodlights, and he wasn't quick enough. He messed up their pattern. They beat him up.

Then he became a blackbird. That lasted about a day. He wasn't competitive enough. They beat him up.

He tried being a siding contractor. He hitched a ride on the tailgate of the contractor's truck. The contractor brought him back. He didn't beat him up, but it was definitely a consideration.

One day as I walked a horse out to the ring, I noticed a killdeer doing his broken wing dance in front of me. Greetings were exchanged. Pidge, from his perch on my head, must've thought this was pretty friendly and homey, so for the next week, everywhere I went with a horse (he connected the horses to the killdeer for some reason), there was Pidge on the ground in front of me, one wing spread, limping around.

For a while it looked as if Pidge had found a niche of sorts, and it got him offf my head, which worked for me, but the tide really turned when a pigeon from the big sheep farm around the corner happened by. We weren't home when Pidge graduated to pigeon, which was fine. We all needed to move on. It was nice to to have to comb my hair several times a day. Everyone in the neighborhood stopped wearing hats, and we cleaned out the cage for the next critter (who turned out to be Tumor Kitty, but that's an entirely different tale).

Now, Anne, aren't you sorry you asked? :flag:

05-18-2006, 06:14 PM
That's hilarious! And my city cousins used to say how boring country living must be. If only they knew what all goes on in the country :D

05-18-2006, 09:40 PM
:ROFL: What a great story! Thanks. I'll be thinking about that all day. :D

Have you subbed any of these stories? I bet you have enough for your very own anthology--I'd buy a copy!

05-18-2006, 11:12 PM
That one, in a longer version, was requested by a local birding society. I wrote it for them, and they ran it in their newsletter. Since the secretary is a friend, it was a freebie. I haven't subbed many of these stories because I can't find anyone who publishes that kind of stuff.

You got me thinking the last time you said you'd buy a copy of an anthology, Anne. I wrote about 200 words. I'm long on tales and short on theme. I'll give it another go in 18 days when my teaching career crashes to a timely halt, and I'll be able to focus for more than ten minutes at a time.

Thanks for the push!

BTW, I'm still waiting for Bow Tie to get back to me with their plans to "position" my horse book. So far I haven't heard another word after all their initial excitement. The editor did say it would take time. How much time is anyone's guess. My guess is: A Lot.

05-18-2006, 11:29 PM
You got me thinking the last time you said you'd buy a copy of an anthology, Anne. I wrote about 200 words. I'm long on tales and short on theme. I'll give it another go in 18 days when my teaching career crashes to a timely halt, and I'll be able to focus for more than ten minutes at a time.

Thanks for the push!

Yay! I think you'd have a great book (and I want my copy autographed). :)

BTW, I'm still waiting for Bow Tie to get back to me with their plans to "position" my horse book. So far I haven't heard another word after all their initial excitement. The editor did say it would take time. How much time is anyone's guess. My guess is: A Lot.

Yeah, unfortunately, it can take a loooooong time for things to fall into place and get all lined up. But that sounds promising!

05-19-2006, 03:02 AM
Hold a spot on your shelf. ;)

05-19-2006, 03:07 AM
:hooray: I'll be waiting!